Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Brave Little Belgium

It's only 8 years to the centenary of the Great War. Ok that may be a long time but looking ahead to 2014 I thought maybe it would be interesting to look at the armies at the start, and where better to start than Belgium. Belgium's unexpectedly strong and able resistance threw the German invasion timetable off for good. They started the war in uniforms more suited to the Crimean war - see pic from the excellent 'Great War in a Different Light site'.
Eventually the uniform changed but not before Belgian Guides, armoured cars and the famous Civic troops forced to disarm by the German deicision to treat them as terorrists were the admiration of the British and French.
Does anyone reenact these troops? I'll search the web to find out and let you know. Here's some repro stuff that looks good.
Belgian Armoured Cars in Russia

Fort Liezele page
Belgisch Leger 1830-1914
Forts of 1914

Monday, October 30, 2006

5,000 hits

I don't know - am I sad mentioning this? I was the 5,000th visitor to my blog - bang goes my dream of hunting whoever it was down and giving them a cd or a toy Humvee - probably tells you who is the main person reading it too. I was also visitor 666 an' all. What is it like writing a blog? I hear you ask.... well imagine you are at a car boot sale on your own with your stuff, some good, some crap - some old toys, the odd video - but you're blindfolded - noones buying anything - but you hear the odd tut or maybe a chuckle as someone looks at something and maybe the sound of a teapot lid being lifted, the smell of a waft of tobacco smoke - someone familiar - then you think to yourself - Why did I do this car boot sale? Was it for money? To get space? Something to do on a Sunday morning? Am I lonely? Should I just leave all the stuff in a pile and drive home? Or maybe I should whistle a merry tune and talk to myself, and say phrases like 'lovely day' or when someone drops something 'they'm all alive!' I remember saying to Bea 'nobody visits my blog' and she said 'how many other people's blogs do you visit?' and I said 'None' and she said 'well there you go then'. So maybe I ought to. Write less read more maybe that ought to be my new motto. Now I have you feeling sorry for me listen to the Bad Detectives Yard Sale of Sorrow in sympathy.

A joke

As told by Rich this morning;
Man; 'How long can you keep a chicken in the freezer'?
Woman; 'oh about 4-6 weeks...'
Man; 'Thats funny - I put one in there last night and it's dead'.

The Radstock Mutineer?

Another piece of paper from my parents and another tale of my Granddad. It is a wage slip from 1921 for three months with the Army Reserve but from here hangs a tale. He didn't talk about his experiences much - after all everyone that mattered knew, and he had a full life raising ten children and eventually running a successful bookmaking business. But there is an interesting military postscript to his military career (see below) and now I think he his story should be told as it tells a lot about all that is brave, beautiful and bolshi about old Radstock.
Back down the mines things for Granddad and his mates had improved; state control of the industry during wartime had seen advances in conditions and pay - now control and ownership was about to go back to the coal-owners and with this move a return to a lower rate of pay - those who didn't agree would be locked out. The Miners went on strike. Including my Grandfather. But the troops were sent to the coalfields and the reservists called up, including my Grandfather. Now why a Mines Rescue and resuscitation expert would be called up in a Miners strike is a bit worrying and it will be a few years before the official papers will be released but with no choice he mustered at Chatham. Incidentally person or persons unknown planted explosives at Middle Pit in Radstock during the General Strike to blow up the head gear, but it was discovered and a police guard placed there. Who, why or what I don't know, but I mention it in passing.
Anyway one thing life underground taught you was the value of comradeship. This spirit was even more acute in Military mining. The miners of the Kent coalfield were not the enemy - they were people like them - drawn from pits all over Britain mostly there by the nature of them being considered troublemakers back home and forced to relocate, as Kent was an unpopular working environment for mining. And don't forget this was 1921. The Russian Revolution was still raging, miners were striking all over the world. So he formed a committee. Meetings were held. A decision reached. A message was passed on. 'We will obey our orders. If the order to fire on miners is given, we will fire alright - at our officers'.
Sadly the strike was crushed. After three months of starving the Miners unsupported after Black Friday , they had no choice. It was a foretaste of the General Strike of 1926 when this time my Grandfather vowed he'd rather eat grass than work underground again and he never looked back. As a postscript to all this wasn't all bad none of his family finished up working in the mines and his son, my Dad had a succesful career as a socialist politician contributing to the landslide defeat of the detested Churchill in 48 (during the General Strike of 1926, Churchill was reported to have suggested that machine guns be used on the striking miners) and standing for MP in Grandfather's much loved North Somerset getting massive support in 1970.
Images from Staffordshire coalfield from the strike of 1921

Cosplay at the London Expo

Yesterday daughters C and B (with James) went to the London expo to take part in a Cosplay competition. Cosplay is an import from Japan and it involves making and dressing up as a character from animation. My two went as Princess Mononoke and Alice in Wonderland. They didn't win but had a great time. They're used to dressing up - being reenactors since toddlers I'm really proud that they get a kick out of it. They got lots of photos taken and tv interviews - very similar to a historical event! The winner was great, apparently, dressed as Yoshi - funny as we have a cockerel called that. The Expo was brill apparently - they got a lot of toys including some cool Army of Darkness figures and a subscription to Neo magazine.
Wiki on Cosplay

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Mines rescue and the Great War

It's amazing what you can find from a bit of paper.
My folks brought over a document relating to my Grandfather J. T. Mitchard, lance-corporal, and his service in the Great War - I'm trying to get some details that might bring some light on the family history and all that. The document dated 1917 was a Certificate of Proficiency (signed by GFF Eagar) from the Mines Rescue unit for using the Proto ('Very good') and Salvus ('Good') Breathing apparatus when he was attached to the Royal Engineers for Military mining duties. (He was a Radstock collier before enlisting in the Coldstream Guards). Anyway that led me to the above site Mines Rescue and the Great War and this fascinating photo of men using the Proto kit (see above). This is presumably - and it ties in with the family stories - what he did. The accompanying video Miners at War looks essential too. I also found that his unit, tunelling company 254, had a posthumous VC awarded to Staffordshire collier-turned soldier William Hackett who was a fascinating hero - being 44 when he refused to abandon a comrade under ground. Really interesting and not just a little H.G. Wells from the equipment photographed - this is a side of the war - these 'Proto men' - I knew nothing about - this is sometimes overlooked but is possibly much more important than is given credit. The colour photo, by the way is German equipment from the same period. Chilling. I don't remember my Granddad but I'm pretty sure they don't make people like that anymore. Order form for video/dvd here
Royal Engineers Museum1914-18 collection

'THE DIFFICULTIES AND DANGERS OF MINE-RESCUE WORK ON THE WESTERN FRONT; AND MINING OPERATIONS CARRIED OUT BY MEN WEARING RESCUE-APPARATUS' period piece on the nature of the men and their work. Worth a read. British and Commonwealth Mining Operations 1914-18 is an excellent site with bibliography and diagram of a proto set.

Toga party

Great fun. We managed to get back to the true meaning of 'bunfight' - that is - a battle fought with baps and shields. As you can see my knowledge of the Romans' contribution to the world is pretty sketchy. The gorilla faced ancient briton is a reenactor from St Petersburg Russia - no names - no pack drill! 'Russian in a toga I know I know - it's serious'

Thursday, October 26, 2006


This is pretty good - kind of PJ Harvey meets Bow wow wow - a London band supporting Muse later this year but don't let that put you off - this is the sort of band Purr club in Bath features when they're just starting out.

Radstock Field Gun Mystery

I had a visit from local historian Chris Howell to drop me off a copy of his acclaimed book on the Great War No Thankful Village. I asked him about a story I heard through the family about the post-war years in Radstock. What I heard was that a German Field Gun was placed in the square in front of Victoria Hall as a memorial but it was deeply unpopular as many widows thought it might have been the machine that took their loved ones. Entreaties were made to have it removed, letters printed in the Radstock Observer, all to no avail; the powers that be were set in their resolve, it was going to stay. So in the dead of night all the veterans including my Grandfather, dismantled it into pieces and hung them ominously on the trees lining the approach drive on the local Lord's estate. The police were brought in and an enquiry started. Noone would speak about it though all the veterans were known to have done it - who else could have? It was a typical miner's wall of silence. Anyway Chris was able to confirm there was a Field Gun memorial in Radstock and it was taken away, but the rest he hadn't heard about. I think the fact that it was there is enough evidence for me - I'll see if I can find some letters in the local paper about it. I wish I could get my hands on a 77mm now though! More about Radstock history at the Museum.
Picture is of a 77mm Field Gun from a feature on reenactors from 1st World War.com

Toga party

Is this friday come along if you're free. Theoretically it should be easy to find us - tell them Ralphadeus sent you. Actually I am going to be on spear duties hopefully not too busy spearing people who try to get in without a toga. I was planning on having some gladitorial combat as part of the activities but this might not be so good with all the rain we've been having. A vomitorium should be ready for use. I wanted the family to watch Caligula to get some ideas but noone wanted to watch it - the more I described it the more noone wanted to watch it. Funny that. I thought they liked Malcolm McDowell.

Russian comic

This is an elegantly drawn comic that seems to be an interesting item - check it out - the black and white artwork is inspirational.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Jacko Monkey

Susan really wanted one of these things (made by Chad Valley in the 60s) but never got one - they used to hang on the walls high up in Woolworths and looked to me a little frightening - if someone had told me they were made from naughty children I would have believed them. But I was young - I believed there was a crocodile living in Warminster boating lake and a giant predatory hare lived in my wardrobe too. I was more interested in the Airfix aeroplanes that also were suspended on pegs but to Susan this ape was an object of desire. You'd think she would get one now off ebay - they go for about 30 quid - but she says that the moment has passed and she can't recapture it. I still like toys and the magic they contain and can't pass by a good toy shop - most of my happiest childhood memories are connected with them. Jacko Monkeys however, still scare me. A little. Maybe that's why Susan doesn't get one.

Woodland Indian Reenactment photos

These photos are from the late 90s with me in the much travelled redcoat reenacting the French and Indian war. For more on woodland indian reenacting, links and more photos go to my webpage. Finding suitable locations for staging skirmishes in this country was not easy - but the American Museum near Bath was perfect - the woodland surrounding the museum has the right feel and the content of the insides was complimentary. My Flintlock and Tomahawk blog has some interesting features you might like.

Battle of Chateauguay

This battle between Canadian and Mohawk forces and the United States in the War of 1812 was a defeat for the Americans. Info on the uniforms here The picture of me as a Mohawk warrior (in paint) was taken at the Bison Farm near Warminster a place with woodland trails and many interesting beasts including bison, elk and racoons. Worth a visit. Try the Bison meat, it's lovely.

Ants fanzine

Interesting interviews with Lester Square and Andy Warren are the highlights of this Ant related fanzine.

Charge of the Light Brigade

Today in 1854 saw the world famous charge of the gallant 600. The poem by Tennyson written in response to the news helped and also the movie featuring Errol Flynn made this one of the most celebrated battles of all time. Who remembers the Charlie Drake hit 'I'm too heavy for the light brigade - had to have another pair of trousers made' - classic comedy record from 1964...

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

WW1 reenactors at Old Sarum 2006 (4)

There's a sequence of these good quality videos from an event this summer. . .this section shows German reenactors in a trench.
World War One - Tanks

footage of those lumbering behemoths we have come to know as tanks. Note the camouflage pattern.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Far From the Madding Crowd

Far From The Madding Crowd - swordplay

This scene is filmed at Maiden Castle - an Iron Age hillfort in Dorset once stormed by the Romans. Sergeant Troy demonstrates his prowess with the sword - a Salisbury Plain charge scene is inserted too - apparently this scene was extremely dangerous to film - note the flashing in front of Christie's eyes. Anyway this film just screams rural Dorset in the Victorian era though one scene is shot at Devizes Wilts - another scene is shot at Gold Hill - see Hovis ad below. If you get a chance get this rural romance - one of my favourite movies ever. Wiki

Jena 1806 reenactment

Schlachtgetümmel mit Schussalven

The fog of war - 1 minute of blackpowder action that gives a taste of Napoleonic warfare - give it a whirl...
Moby featuring Debbie Harry - New York New York

This is great - everything a hit should have - and that includes Debbie Harry

Beyonce 'Irreplaceable'

My family have been complaining about this - their objections to this are basically 1) they rhyme 'minute' with 'minute' in the chorus (could have another you in a minute matter fact, he'll be here in a minute) 2) she wears curlers in the video and she obviously has straightened afro hair and doesn't use them 3) the bit at the end with the girl band is completely naff and 4) the overall sentiment that if you could have a live-in lover who was instantly replaceable it would be nothing other than being pretty trampy. .. and my witty response? Shut Up! I like her anyway...

A visit to Radstock Museum

This week is free at local museums for residents so I popped along to Waterloo Road with Susan to see how it's getting along. Focussing on the area's Mining and farming history there are mock-ups of shops, a blacksmith, a coal shaft and local domestic interiors at the turn of the century - in effect what the inside of my house used to be like. The scullery pictured has a huge copper type bowl that we still have that was for washing clothes. Fascinating, but very weird - to be in that sort of 'Sunday Museum' frame of mind and seeing objects that we still have while foreign people and day trippers milled about. Here's also a picture of me pondering if it was on such a delivery bike so many years ago when I was about 14 that I lost my work ethic.
Anyway a great place to spend time - a nice cafe and bookshop with stacks of the educational 'Five Arches' magazine - I'm already regretting I didn't pick up the articles on the Crimean War and the Somerset coalfields. A booklet I did buy though was one on the Great War in the area but to my dismay no mention of our Grandfather!

The Long Blondes

Playing the Thekla Bristol tonight...

Hungarian uprising remembered

50 years ago the Hungarians rose up against the Soviet Union. A divided country remembers these events.

Yorktown surrender reenacted

Article plus 2 slideshows of images showing the British surrender. American Revolution reenactors are mostly heavier than their 18th century counterparts would have been. Another article and slideshow

Sunday, October 22, 2006


Today is Pomme - first day of Brumaire (meaning mist) in the French Revolutionary Calendar. A fascinating attempt by the radical thinking of the time to overturn all the old days, months and years and put them on a decimal basis the FRC had three ten day weeks per month and instead of the year 179whotsit had year 2 or year 4, all backdating to 1792.
So here's a pic of me in French Revolutionary stuff on. I realise I look pretty stupid in this but it is linked to some of the other posts showing a stage between the white-coated French of Yorktown (and the monarchy of Marie-Antionette) and the Napoleonic troops of Jena. French Revolutionary Calendar
Hastings 2006 footage

An array of still images of the action in quick succession - excellent content and a high quality media experience - well worth the watching

Mining in the 1770s

This painting Landscape with a Mine c1775 by Paul Sandby is probably Wales but it is how Radstock's mines would have looked like at the time of the American Revolution. It's from an excellent page of Mining In Art which is well worth a look if you have an interest in the early years of mining. Pitmen at Play and Pitmen playing Quoits c1836 are interesting to me - but they're all fascinating.


Had an email from this group, the Pirate Brethren from the US recreating Pirates of the late 17th, early 18thc. Have a look at this society as they seem to have managed a historically accurate appearance while still managing to enjoy themselves....

The Tyning Inn Radstock

A postcard of our local pub the Tyning Inn taken by Susan. With panoramic views over Radstock the beer garden was once the home of Quoits matches - a game associated with miners and still played in parts of Britain. How about a revival 'round here?

According to Radstock Museum we won the 'world championship' in 1927 - beating Farrington Gurney in the final (FG is about 4 miles away)!!

Movie made by school children on Quoiting

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Duellists

Scott's first feature showing on ITV4 Sunday evening - a film that shows both the absurdity and beauty of conflict. Harvey Keitel is brill in it -
Hovis - Bike Ride

Ridley Scott directed this commercial before doing the Duellists - it is shot at Gold Hill in Shaftesbury Dorset. I used to do a delivery round with an old bike like this for the Co-op and it was a really heavy bike with poor brakes. I used to get 5p for every box of groceries I delivered - I used to have to get the bike to crash to get it to stop. I should have got danger money as some of the hills in Frome make Gold Hill look flat!

Army of Charles XII

Smålands Karoliner

Swedish reenactors of the Great Northern War do a display of musketry and artillery
Battle of Hastings 2006 Battle Re-enactment

Norman knights - more clips on Youtube

Ferret photos

A couple of ferret photos for you - the one on top is Napoleon and his uncle Kowalski playing but the thing to note is the sellotape around the bottom of Susan's trousers - can you guess why it's there? (Answer; flares and free range ferrets don't mix - maybe that's why you don't see many hippies owning ferrets). The other pic is Napoleon's new toy - he nagged and nagged for a guitar - let's hope he does play it - by the way if you're thinking he's a bit chubby - he's just big boned alright?

New history Blog

This is an interesting new blog devoted to historical matters - my son looked over my shoulder while I was looking at it and said 'it's a lot less cynical than yours' - in my defence I haven't ever declared this to be a history blog - I try to make it personal without being confessional and if that involves history then I put it in. If you want a history blog then get on Conan the Historian's blog - I left school after my O levels so don't expect anything clever from me.

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Duellists (1977)

This Sunday 900pm ITV 4
Directed by Ridley Scott (his first feature film)and based on the story by Joseph Conrad this is one of the best movies to deal with the Napoleonic era. Fresh from doing commercials Scott opted to avoid huge set-piece battle scenes but instead piled on the historical atmosphere and made the movie human scale but very accurate.
The story is a bit of an enigma in itself but the two main protagonists, French hussar officers played by Harvey Keitel and Keith Carradine find themselves enemies and fight a series of duels as the Napoleonic wars progress. Lots of interesting characters abound, played by acting luminaries like Edward Fox and Albert Finney. A real sense of history is achieved as the fortunes of the French army decline - but don't let that put you off - this is not a military history film - more a cinematic treat. Pour yourself a glass of red wine and sit back and enjoy a beautiful film, obviously influenced by Barry Lyndon and if you don't enjoy it you can call me Napoleon.
Wiki on the Duellists

Youtube faces violence purge

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Adam Ant NOT going on Big Brother

"In response to recent tabloid claims and various websites, adam-ant.net would like to deny all claims that Adam is to appear on a celebrity reality show, here in the UK. Adam's agent and manager said "Adam will definitely not be appearing in any celebrity reality TV show either this year or next. There has been no approach from either of the shows in question and we would not welcome any approach either." best wishes, Marco

Radstock in the late 18th century

With all this talk of Yorktown and battles that took place far away I am sure you are now asking what was going on in Ralph's neck of the woods - in North Somerset at the time of the American and French Revolution? Well quite a lot but I tend to ignore it as I am an amateur military historian and industrial history isn't my bag but to add a global perspective I'll fill you in on what was happening here at the time of Yorktown's surrender and beyond.
Coal was discovered in Radstock in 1763 at the end of the Seven Years War but difficult conditions meant that it was slow growth but a boom was in place by the end of the 18th century when one of the engines of Jonathon Hornblower was installed in 1782. A poor transport infrastructure meant most of the coal only went to local markets - nearby Bath was in its heyday as a British Las Vegas and the world famous Royal Crescent had been recently built. In 1795 during the French Revolution the Somerset Coal Canal was commenced - at the bottom of our garden - by French prisoners of war - . In 1760 Stoney Littleton Longbarrow was discovered when stone was being excavated for road mending. Later in 1816 it was explored by the famous Reverend John Skinner but it was raided by riotous colliers who helped themselves to bones and other objects. I wonder what went missing? Skinner is pretty famous and his diaries Journal of a Somerset Rector 1772-1839 are still widely read. Skinner seemed to consider the local miners as the worst kind of humanity and eventually shot himself, depressed. His observations are priceless, though gloomy ‘I was not a little astonished, as I walked through Bath, to observe the streets so crowded with prostitutes, some of them apparently not above 14 or 15 years of age’ or "I drove to Priston [Rectory] to dine with Mr. Hammond . . . and had an entertainment better suited to Grovesnor Square than a clergyman's home - French dishes and French wines in profusion. I hope such feasts will not be repeated often, or I am sure I shall not be one of the guests."
The Scots Greys bivouaced at Radstock in 1815 on the way to Southampton eventually giving the road Waterloo Road. My house was built about 1840 for the workers of the newly opened Tyning Colliery and within a decade or so the railways replaced the canal which interestingly was in its turn replaced by a cycle path.
Mining ended in the 1960s in Radstock but an excellent museum keeps the period of boom in focus with excellent displays.
There is a story from the 18th century in Radstock where a soldier commenced an illicit affair with a clergyman's daughter - thwarted they enacted a suicide pact but the soldier managed to back out and survive. At least men haven't changed.
Wiki on Bath in the 18th century

French and Indian war in the UK footage

Here's a little movie of the reenactment society New France and Old England I started back in 96 - still going strong - here it is back in the spring of this year. It used to be a lot bigger when I was running it but it was a bit of a craze back then. I was going to go along but my lift fell through so I decided to knock reenactment on the head unless I could cycle or use public transport to get there. My feelings are now that I would like to start something or other but something local and that would appeal to young people of my kids age group. Gun-based reenactment is doomed in this country in my opinion. Maybe something from Dark Ages or Roman is best where all you need is a spear and a shield. Anyone have any thoughts... other than 'you're mad'?


Today 4 days of reenactments commence in Virginia celebrating the anniversary of the British defeat which led to the loss of America as a colony. French assistance was vital in this victory and the French defence minister is guest at the proceedings. Maybe we in the UK should have our own private celebrations about how glad we are to have got rid of them. Whatever we feel over here, it should be a pretty exciting event with tall ships and shuttle buses for the participants - best of all - admittance is free. The image is from the bicentennial in 81 and is the French regiment Saintonge.
Siege of Yorktown wiki Event website
The Game Feat Junior Reid - It's Ok ( One Blood )

the grumpy old Game - G Unit's fly in the ointment

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Gun crime in the UK

Lots of stuff on the news about crime with replica or toy guns. I suppose it won't be long before the things will become illegal.

World War One in 1/32 scale

As Armies in Plastic have just issued some Great War Russians and Emhar are about to do a Schneider I thought it might be interesting to see what's out there in this scale, (which is the large toy soldier scale by the way).
Armies in Plastic do a comprehensive range of WW1 figures both early and late - the poses traditional - ideal though a little expensive - available in the UK from Steve Weston and others.
Scale Link do an excellent range of parts and accessories for most nations. Heads, torsos enable you to build your own figure.
Emhar do a range of '1/35' scale tanks and figures - including a Whippet fast tank, available from ebay and Hannants. A French Schneider tank is due for release which is pretty exciting. Also useful 77mm Field gun and 18 pdr. Figures are OK.
Irregular Miniatures do some interesting metal 54mm figures and pieces (see image) which look great in the traditional toy soldier style and relatively inexpensive. Traditional toy soldiers abound in this scale - newest and cheapest are made by Corgi.
ICM also do later period British and German infantry in kit form. Also their Franco Prussian war figures might be good for early Germans and include a mounted officer. Polish company RPM do some kits like the Renault FT-17 and Ford Model T trucks.
So who knows? Maybe I might get to live out my fantasy and have a Great War trench system in my garden - if only someone did a remote-controlled tank in this scale...
In conclusion I think it would be difficult to do the early war period in this scale due to the lack of cavalry available but tanks and artillery make it possible to do 1917-18 easily. Barbed wire, emplacements and ruins are readily available for WW2.

Adam Ant to go in Big Brother House?

Desperate but not serious? More here I don't think this is a good idea at all considering his bipolar illness and his desire to be front page news again.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Come on - this actually looks a fun movie and anything that celebrates the 18thc AND Bow Wow Wow has to be good - I might go to the cinema for this... from the vague things I've read it sounds more like a pop video than a movie but that sounds alright to me...based on Antonia Fraser's biography apparently and starring Kirsten Dunst, the settings and general look seems pretty ok in a pop video sort of way...maybe it will appeal to the Pirates of the Carribean audience and start a fashion for the period - maybe I ought to launch a French 18th century reenactment society...actually that's probably not such a good idea.
Real life Marie Antoinette Wiki. Movie Wiki

Marie-Antoinette Soundtrack

Sometimes an interest in the Age of Reason and post punk collides - only very occasionally and usually I don't like it but this new biopic of Marie-Antoinette features an interesting soundtrack featuring Bow Wow Wow, Adam and the Ants, and the Gang of Four. So I CAN go on about the French revolution and Punk Rock in the same blog.
The Rapture: Get Myself Into It (Final Version)

The Rapture

Punk Rock History 1976-80

This book is at the printers - it looks essential - especially since we (Animals and Men) are in it, which means it must be comprehensive! I like the comment about Shitsville UK - do you think he might have visited Frome?

A Complete History Of Punk From 1976-1980
Alex Ogg

Release Date: October 2006 Cherry Red Books

Punk rock: it’s a well-worn subject, but this new book extends the searchlight beyond the King’s Road, Roxy and West London – though that crucial scene is by no means neglected. It also encompasses some of the truly fantastic music (and sometimes truly less than fantastic records) that emerged in the wake of the Sex Pistols. The idea has been to give the progenitors their due, but to listen to the reverberations around the UK, from Exeter to Inverness. Participants (musicians, fanzine writers, observers) recount first-hand stories of flea pit gigs, desperately financed singles and local rivalries – punk as it was understood and lived on the ground. The enduring impact of punk belonged to the shires of Britain as well as the celebrated urban gene pool of the capital, where it played out, with a mixture of indomitable personal courage and amoral teenage mischief-making, amongst the alienated of shitsville UK. In the process punk is revealed as a much broader church than other histories have depicted, an entry point for young men and women (and a significant helping of old codgers) from differing backgrounds, with widely ranging sensibilities and aspirations.

The book assesses each of the major ‘punk artists’, candidly, on their output, following their development to the present day. There’s an effort to redress perceived wisdom about the value of those careers as the 70s turned into the 80s, when many of the original punk bands actually made their best records. While many names will be familiar others will not. Hence time is devoted to punk’s splintered personality post-1977. From those bands that took it as an inviolate template, to those who embraced it as a rebirth for the original spirit of rock ‘n’ roll to those, finally, who judged it the end of rock music and a jumping off point for something completely new. There is no unifying view or theory behind these accounts, instead the book serves as an attempt to capture the beautiful chaos engendered by competing voices as the walls came tumbling down. The idea is to be inclusive and celebratory rather than cynical. Therefore opinions are sought from outside the tight huddle of usual suspects and would-be elitists, drawing on bemused and bewildered non-participants to events, as well as those who served in the trenches. There is no attempt to locate the ‘meaning’ of punk, nor to run a slide rule over qualifications for its status. The author has instead, in the majority of cases, let the protagonists make their own cases. Where possible the bands concerned have exercised the right of reply, leading to a more balanced account of their own history. Some 200 interviews were completed in the course of researching the book, leading to a plethora of first-hand insights and anecdotes.

A secondary aspect of the book is the comprehensive documentation of the releases, both contemporary and retrospective, of the bands of the era. It’s an attempt to address the jungle of retrospective CDs and box sets, the sheer volume of which indicates the continued fascination around this period in British musical history.

· Over 300 individual band/artist biographies
· Use of several unpublished photos
· Forewords by Captain Sensible and David Marx
· Complete discographies featuring capsule reviews and source notes

Samples etc at: http://www.alexogg.com/

Monday, October 16, 2006

Guess the battle

OK - guess the name of the battle depicted - tomorrow's anniversary fight - if you don't know anything about 18th century warfare then the war will do. Whatever the case enjoy the autumn foliage on this lovely painting and ensure that you get out to enjoy this season's displays.

Yorktown anniversary

This thursday begins 4 days of reenactments of this the concluding battle of the American Revolution - they're expecting 30,000 visitors - the same number as Hastings and Jena coincidentally...

Napoleonic battle reenactment photos - Jena 2006

As readers of this Blog will know I have a soft spot for the little corporal - portrayed at this reenactment by an American, Marc Shneier, and this is one of his golden victories, won before Jean de l'epee thought he was invincible. Be sure to see the Speigel's article and gallery from whence these images come - I miss Napoleonic reenactment if only for the thrill of advancing at the beat of the drum, the smell of blackpowder, the thunder of hooves, the desire to go to toilet at inappropriate times... Result France 5 Prussia 0

Germany reenacts battle of Jena

200th Anniversary of this great victory by Napoleon over the Prussians reenacted this weekend in Germany. Another piece here
Wiki on the Battle of Jena
Austerlitz diorama

Battle of Hastings article

Lots of coverage for this major reenactment including some great images, like this one from the BBC article and a rather lame piece in the Daily Mirror
Amyl Nitrate - Rule Britannia

Alesha 'Knockdown' video

Not normally my sort of thing but this song is so catchy its like a virus uploaded to your song palette. There's something vaguely futuristic about this song - quirky, and very British. The middle section sounds like Rule Britannia by Jordan from Jubilee - give them both a spin and see what I mean. Anyway Alesha is ex-Misteeq if you're wondering. Wiki on Alesha
If you're not an Alesha fan watch this clip from Derek Jarman's Jubilee - of Jordan doing it -it's what the Eurovision song contest should be like. Of course we're talking about Jordan - the punk innovator and Ants manager of course.

Battle of Leipzig 1813

Known as the Battle of Nations this apocaplyptic battle was fought this day in 1813. Info on the reenactment here

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Battle of Hastings weekend

This weekend is the big event - 1066 - the most decisive battle on English soil being reenacted by a cast of thousands. Live webcasts and all sorts of wonders of the world wide web are linked so if you can't make it you can still experience a milestone of history being reenacted Details here

Friday, October 13, 2006

Stephen Merchant

Bristolian Merchant has been exceptional in the series Extras - so good to hear a West Country accent delivering funny lines. Watch this clip and see what I mean.

Janie Jones video

As this is about the only Clash song I like and its for the above linked Charity I thought I'd pick this video... not sure about the Ford Cortina in the video though and I reckon this version sucks - I think I prefer the Stiffs doing it. Video here
Babyshambles and Friends Release Janie Jones
Babyshambles and Friends release, a cover of the Clash classic, Janie Jones through B-Unique Records on Monday 30th October. All proceeds from the single will go to Strummerville (the Joe Strummer Foundation for New Music).The single features contributions from 21 other artists: Carl Barat, the Rakes, Mystery Jets, The Holloways, We Are Scientists, The Paddingtons, Larrikin Love, Cazals, Noisettes, Good Books, Lady Fuzz, Kooks, Jack Penate, Laura Marling, Maccabees, Lisa Moorish, Light Speed Champ (Test Icicles), Jamie T, Jeremy Warmsley, Guillemots. The idea came about after Statik suggested to Drew McConnell (Babyshambles) and that they record the song for Strummerville. The single was recorded at The Whirling Dervish and Oilsville studio in Holloway and was produced by Statik and Drew McConnell. It will be available on CD single and 7”, the B.side features a solo version of Janie Jones by Peter Doherty and a remix of the A.side by Statik - featuring Lethal Bizzle, JME, No Mind and Talk Taxis.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

General Pulaski Memorial Day

Apparently in the US today is a day honouring this volunteer in the American Revolution. Recruited by Lafayette this Polish cavalryman has been called the father of American Cavalry. Visit http://www.pulaskilegion.org/ to see his unit being reenacted today - be sure to visit the gallery of photos of this picturesque unit.

Battle of Valcour Island 1776

For those one or two of you who are interested in such things maybe I ought to mention today is the anniversary of this Naval engagement in the American Revolution on Lake Champlain. The battle is said to be the birth of the American Navy. I think it's hard for people in the UK who haven't seen American lakes to imagine naval battles on lakes as it conjures up images of Swallows and Amazons , so for the sake of understanding the scale I think yanks should rename the lakes 'seas' for our benefit.

Basement Jaxx's Take Me Back to Your House video

I don't like this - in fact I find it pretty offensive - even racist towards Russian people - watch it and see what I mean - you'll probably think I am being over-sensitive but I don't find this any more acceptable than showing black people behaving like minstrels or Chinese people being coolies. There is a T-34 in there btw.

The Horrors Count in Fives video

Nice to see garage rock is not completely dead. This is great - give it a whirl...
Myspace site

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Ramones movie on the way

Age of Empires 3

Real time strategy. If you've never played an RTS then this year should be it. Maybe this might be too much for your processor - check out the website anyway.

Toga party

Soon we are hosting a Toga party a la Animal House. Info here on how to make a toga.

Amy Winehouse 'Rehab' video

A strange record - a current single faithfully recreating a 60s northern soul sound - you have to listen to this one ... I think for authenticity's sake it should be brackets the No No No song close brackets. Be aware - this song will leech itself onto your brain and not let go. No No No. I do prefer the Detroit Cobras' modern take on classic soul but this one does have good percussion and an interesting lyric going for it.
Wiki on Winehouse

Today's video Outkast 'Idlewild Blue'

Blues harp, boogie guitar, and a thirties setting make this a must for all of you to see - go on give yourself a treat...this is from the current movie Idlewild - a musical set in the Prohibition era. Outkast wiki

Monday, October 09, 2006

Video of the day 'Shoot the Runner' Kasabian

OK - I know none of you are interested in 18th century warfare and tanks so what I will do is pick every day a new single to put the video up for - its up to you whether you like it or bother watching but I will provide for you a stimulating and new(ish) - within the last few weeks - single. First up is the new single by Kasabian called Shoot the Runner. It's worth a look even if you don't like their take on Baggy. By the way do you know there's a charity single of Janie Jones coming out? I shan't be bothering.

Remote controlled tanks

I thought as the season of annual gift-giving is approaching it might be worth writing a little about remote- or radio-controlled tanks as these are now getting in the high street shops, so here's my observations.
The Heng Long Price Revolution
The cheap r/c tanks that everyone seems to be buying at the moment is 1/16th scale world war two tanks made by Heng Long - mostly the Tiger and the new Panther. These are basically cheap remakes of Tokyo Marui originals, but are affordable and offer opportunities for the enthusiast to buy additional bits and do conversion projects. These seem to be going for about 50 pounds on ebay (see above link for current UK sales), and have smoke and sound options as well as being able to fire bb pellets. Ideal, though the non-German tanks available are limited to a M26 Pershing Snow Leopard or a post-war M41A3. The popularity of these tanks have made their predecessors, the modern 1/24th scale ones, like I have (see photo and clip) drop even more in price to less than 30 pounds. These are on the high street for about 55 pounds. There is a high level of returns with this manufacturer so ensure you buy off a dealer who has plenty - I got through two tanks before getting a working one but it has not given me any trouble since. (Hen Long review here)
Other manufacturers are making WW2 models in this scale - the most tempting one is the Trumpeter T-34/85 though more expensive than Heng Long probably is better quality.
1/16th scale is pretty useful - you can buy all sorts of figures and accessories in this scale, but if you're not a WW2 nut you might go for cheaper and contemporary, and take up my idea to 'Pimp' your tank. Modern tanks are pretty dull things but at this price you could respray your tank to a personal style with add-on decals and a replacement action figure to fight with your pals in a post-apocalypse scenario. Flags and personal bits could make it quite a fun project. The photo shows a Star Wars figure for size comparison. Anyway I hope to convert part of my garden to make tank combat interesting - if you get one you are invited to take mine on - whatever scale you get. (By the way the clip is only 7 seconds long so you might as well watch!)
Go here to see real radio-control tank enthusiasts

P J Harvey

Noticed it was her birthday today so an excuse to play one of her videos as she is without the best thing to come out of the Yeovil area to date. This is a great song off her last lp 'Is this Love'. She is a most influential artist in my opinion - so many bands like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Kills, and practically any female fronted garage rock band finish up sounding like her whether they intend to or not. Wiki on Harvey
Peel sessions lp coming out soon - see Harvey's official site

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Robin Hood - the result...

What a load of rubbish that was! I didn't see some of the more obvious influences coming - this ropey series owes a great deal to Pirates of the Carribean in its style, but I suppose the most obvious laughs come from the costumes, which look more Star Trek than Sherwood Forest including what looked like moulded plastic mail. Poor digital effects are used throughout to create dodgy buildings but the worst aspect had to be the sound quality - presumably intended for people with surround sound high definition tv sets you could hardly hear any of the dialogue at all on a normal telly - what a gaff! I am sure it wouldn't have been just us who were falling about laughing at this pile of expensive dung - every time a place title came up it was accompanied by the sound of an arrow whistling through the air - only it sounded more like someone letting down a tyre and the sight of Keith Allen dressed in a fake fur crown was priceless. My overall verdict? Robin Shit.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Robin Hoodie

I am not sure whether to watch the BBC's new Robin Hood series starting tonight; it promises to be a contemporary take on the legend - so when WASN'T anything NOT a contemporary take? Errol Flynn was hot when that version is out - Richard Lester's Robin and Marian was steeped in the late 60s - the thing is with any filming is that even if you tried not to it would be a contemporary take. What you can guarantee is that this will be aimed at the sort of people who will probably be already vomiting white cider by 7 o'clock on saturday, in other words it will be a dumbed down affair, a 'Robin is an ASBO' type of thing - the costumes already tell us that - how many yards of leather did they use to make Robin's outfit look like a hoodie? I expect the Normans will look like Harry Hastings (left) or the Tony Robinson Maid Marian baddies... Can I also guess that it will have a nauseating rave soundtrack? Probably easier on the ears than Clannad. BBC Robin Hood webpage

Royal Proclamation of 1763

Today is the anniversary of this historic decree in 1763 - an event that may have started the American Revolution and so here's another pic of me. It was a British proclamation that drew a line across America and guaranteed no further expansion could be done by any colonists onto native land. This was a response to the uprising of Pontiac. Of course it wasn't popular and only lasted as long as the British ruled America.
The photo is me and a pal reenacting native warriors at the time of the American Revolution at Firle Place. Most natives sided with the British to their eventual cost during the American Revolution, the American response was to play up and exaggerate Indian atrocities in the press demonising the British along the way. Propaganda like this was vital in swaying opinion abroad, in France in particular. The rest is history.
As a result of losing the Revolution many natives were displaced ending up in Canada and elsewhere. Doing events like this is more about talking to the public about primitive camping and history than running about fightin' and shooting. More like a talk on the introduction to the 18th century history of say, the Iroquois than going 'woo woo'. Honestly.
A list of links for reenacting Natives and related hobbies mainly for the US is here.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Wilko by the Bad Detectives

This is an interesting picture taken by Henry and Ivan of Wilko Johnson back in about 82 at Dingwalls in Bristol to accompany an article for a fanzine I tried to put together called Stranded in the Jungle. I also have some photos of Screaming Jay Hawkins that were also going to feature in the same issue.
It's a very interesting pursuit going through old photos - you find photos of things that crop up later in life - just as an example of what I am saying you might take a photo of a ferret when you visit somewhere with the children as babies and now they are adults the whole house is overrun with them and then you find the original photo that you had forgottten about, if that makes sense.
Of course Henry and Ivan later came to support Wilko and meet him in different circumstances - I wonder if he remembered that interview? More live shots soon... Bad Detectives website
Wilko Johnson website Watch him doing Roxette on the OGWT while in Dr Feelgood

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Mitchell and Webb

If you're wondering what is tickling the funny bones of this family then I'd have to say this comedy duo. Famous for Peep Show there new series is cracking everyone up - there's lots up on Youtube if you aren't in the UK and want some funny British humour - this clip from the first series also demonstrates how we all talk round here. They do owe something to Adam and Joe wethinks...

Thekla reopens

Fun venue reopens in Bristol tonight. Great boat. Check out the above link to what's on what night.

Zvezda Great Northern War Swedes

Coming in the next few weeks is the surprise appearance of Swedish infantry, Charles XII period, in 1/72 scale from Zvezda, probably the world leader in quality figures in this medium. Designed to go with the Strelets - have a look at them to judge for yourself the standard of sculpting and poses.
Zvezda box art usually matches the contents and judging from this the poses are all historically accurate and useful. I can imagine these could form the basis for all sorts of 18thc armies.

French Revolution Photos

As today is the anniversary of the disestablishment of the Christian church in the French Revolution in 1793 you can feast your eyes on this still from the French movie Les Chouans. The Revolution was a great time for radical ideas - a new calendar, new feast days and huge parades celebrating 'reason'. I also love the fashions, particularly those worn by the Sans-Culottes. We nearly had a band in the 80s that was going to wear French revolution fashion and have a guillotine on stage, but alas Reason won the day and it was not to be.
The best book on the subject 'Fashion in the French Revolution' and has that title is by Aileen Ribeiro, and though now out of print should be available through library loan.
To see French reenactors the 18eme de ligne from Orchies near Lille reenact this period check out their gallery. It was in their company that we spent the night of 14th July 1989 and a fine night it was.
What is a Chouan? Here's a page of a group I haven't encountered recreating them.

Beck 'Cellphone's dead' video

Good to hear Beck's back on form - the new album's good listening too - whack up your volume and enjoy a good pop single for a change. Just to think it's ten years since 'Devil's Haircut'.

Rough Trade Shops 30th anniversary comp

An interesting concept - 30 guest compilers put together a cd compilation and hardback book to celebrate 30 years of this famous London record shop. Currently cameod in the Lily Allen video I don't suppose things could be any better for this eclectic store. Tracklisting looks interesting... hopefully won't be too long before it's a fiver in Fopp and then I might buy it.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Voices of Animals and Men

My days of googling our band are over www.animalsandmen.co.uk

Will 'Dub' Jones

I love good singing - Will 'Dub' Jones was more than good - he was brilliant. Probably best known for the vocal on the Coasters' 'Sorry But I'm Gonna Have to Pass' but the bass vocalist par excellence will also be remembered for Stranded in the Jungle by the Cadets and Love Bandit by the same band. My favourite is the fantastic lead on the Coasters' Besame Mucho. Phenomenal. Why no wiki on him but instead the erroneous link to the baseball star... ?


What is Crunk? asked Susan - of course we consulted the Wikipedia piece to explain it - maybe we should have pointed her to the Ciara site for her new video

Napoleon v tank

A title that maybe carries more excitement than the clip...

I hate the fantasy genre

Here's my artwork satirising the fantasy genre and its skin tight cousin, science-fiction - the only genres where you can read dozens of books and know nothing of any consequence or relevance....anywhere! Of course you can seek out people who have similarly wasted their time...
Here's my contribution to the canon - interested parties can download a Rhinovian phrase book here soon.


Today's bargain - Corgi 'Desert Force' Hummers - a pound each! The thing about toys being in the pound shop is usually a sign of them flopping - what sort of idiot thought 'hey we've invaded Iraq - all the kids will want to play desert wargames that now it's on the news everyday'? I don't remember any Northern Ireland playsets or anything like that when I was a kid. Anyway .... a nice photo taken by Sue - watch out for more toy pictures soon. I suppose there are opposition for these in the form of Caesar's 1/72 Urban Resisters. Hardly escapism is it?
The Humvee is an amazing vehicle - associated with Arnold Schwarzenegger, rappers and of course American soldiers in the desert. What a reputation. Wouldn't even get down our road, but then that was only meant for the night soil man in the treacle cart. Anyone make a model of that?

Roman Britain

I don't have any pictures of me reenacting this period - maybe someday - I did a few events and wore some blue paint for a film on Boudicca - so you don't get off that easily but it's the era of early Roman settlement in Britain, so you also get combat between Romans and Iron Age warriors as well as living history. It's worth checking out their site as there's loads of really useeful info on making iron age shoes, weapons and clothing. If you've ever wondered what people inhabited the hillforts and Roman settlements that populate the West it is the era the Vicus recreates.

Napoleon and me (continued)

You may have been wondering how Napoleon is getting on and here is the little devil in my pouch. Actually I know pictures of your pet are blog poison but maybe I am testing you? Are you ready for footage of Napoleon owning my remote control tank yet? Incidentally there was a funny piece on tv about online networking that said something like 'Warhol said in the future everyone would be famous for 15 minutes - with online communities everyone is famous for 15 people'.

Adam book signing photos

Susan went into Bath to pick up the Ant autobiography but when she got hold of it thought it looked like a standard showbiz spin and put it down - this type of book is best satarised in Alan Partridge's Bouncing Back where he details his terrible toblerone addiction. Ant bragging about his relationship with Jamie Lee Curtis is a bit sad too - presumably he hasn't heard the urban myth about her being a hermaphrodite. Let's face it - does anyone care? Not sure I do.
Times review here.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Classic doowop clip

I occasionally look out for clips of the Coasters - in particular I am looking for a clip I saw once for the song 'What is the secret of your success?' which is brilliant but this does a good job of filling my doowop quota for today. The Clovers Leiber and Stoller

French Revolutionary wars photos

Here I am third from the left at Audley End House, in about 91. We are about to skirmish with the British and allied forces.
So, after leaving the 46eme I had up and joined the 3eme, which was a small, but authentic group who didn't really take themselves too seriously and were good fun. They were following a bicentennial programme so 1992 was 1792 and changes in equipment followed this pattern. I like the above photo - as you can see it was a motley bunch but that was the nature of French revolutionary troops but we're mostly all smiling and it was a talented group. We often wore clogs or went barefoot in the pursuit of authenticity but we were also capable of doing silly stuff when required. A lot of Napoleonic events were abroad but at this time I was well-paid and was able to go off campaigning with other nationalities, including eastern bloc reenactors which was the most strange of all as this was before the Berlin Wall's collapse and so on. Sadly this group is no more but the ex caporal Kevin Garlick (to the right of me with clay pipe) is busy making historical footwear for reenactors and museums and the like. Check out his site.